Tag Archives: Apartheid

Israel and the role of International Civil Society

This article is about a nine minute read. It’s in three parts. Some readers already familiar with the reports I cite in Part two and may wish to leapfrog to Part three.

Part one: Can Israeli Apartheid last?

Israel will not of its own volition unmake its rancid racist regime. Currently, it is so immersed in self-generated and self-sustained contempt and fear of the Other – Palestinians – that it has not the internal emotional, ethical or ideological resources to break out of what is, were Israel able to see it, an existential dead end. At present, it can conceive of itself only in terms of domination, of dominating the material, human and political landscape that is Palestine/Israel. From this perspective, Israel might be said to suffer from a form of institutional and personal psychosis, such that it has condemned itself to tread a seemingly endless, junction-less road of folly, stained with its crimes and calculated cruelties – and a vista that offers no kinder horizon. Israel: a nation in need of a cure.  

And the root cause of Israel’s ailments? Its pursuit, its violent pursuit, of a herrenvolk, or Master race ideology. The objective: To create a Jewish supremacist state requiring that the indigenous population of Palestinians be either removed totally from their own land, or reduced to numbers that can be controlled and managed.  In this, Israel replicates the settler-colonialist practices that spawned, for example, the states of America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. A colonial endeavour is, inevitably and necessarily, violent.  Thus, from a herrenvolk ideology, all evil flows. (Though, by way of an aside, the idea of a pure race of anybody is a false construct, devoid of foundation to support it, or mortar to hold it together.)

Israel: A state in need of treatment

But where are the political medics, where are the counsellors, who might fulfil the role of true friends of Israel ready to guide, to persuade and, if necessary, to punish in hope of correction? Not among the warm-word friends – the international community, the UK, the EU, the countries of the West – all whose self-interest in oil, in arms, in trade, and who have allowed themselves to be captured by sectional interests, secular and religious, rendering them, at present, incapable of calling Israel to account. Which, paradoxically perhaps, makes them, ultimately, no friend at all.   A friend is someone who helps you get out of the trouble you have created for yourself. Helps you see yourself as you are, not as you purport to be.

Even hypocrisy seems too milder a word

We have become accustomed to the pious utterances mouthed by western countries in particular exclaiming their commitment to democracy and the rule of law. Not a few regimes have been the recipients of western nations’ finger-wagging rebukes as to deficiencies in their mode of government. And many rebukes are no doubt deserved.  

By way of contrast, Israel – the Apartheid state – is subject, if at all, only to occasional mild reproof. It nestles most contently within an approbatory cocoon fashioned by the very same states that are otherwise most strident in proclaiming their democratic, rule of law credentials. Yet hour by hour, day by day, Israel brazenly flouts international and humanitarian law. This position possible only because it rests on the firm foundation of international hypocrisy.

But even hypocrisy seems too milder a word to describe this toleration of gross offences against, ultimately, people – Palestinians. 

So, can it last in its present form?

Is it, therefore, to be believed that an Apartheid state, maintained to all intent and purposes by military might and unholy alliances, can ultimately survive in its present form?

I am not by nature an optimistic, I don’t believe the world is necessarily on a virtuous trajectory to a better, more benign future.  But there is, I hazard to suggest, an almost tangible liberatory urge globally that traverses the boundaries of age, ethnicity, religion and class which will, ultimately, find intolerable the existence of an Apartheid state in its midst.  Intimations of this are not hard to find, be that in the protests of Palestinians or the growth of dissenting Jewish voices in America, the UK and Europe.

From an article by George Zeidan (co-founder of Right to Movement Palestine) and Miran Khwais in Haaretz, 18 July 2021:

Now, we as Palestinians are rediscovering our common aspirations, our common goal of freedom, rejecting the artificial borders imposed and sustained by force and discrimination. We will be faced with critical questions and positions that we need to navigate together: finding common ground between political cultures, from Islamists to secularists.

But we’ve learnt a critical lesson from the recent harsh events. There is no chance of change or liberation relying on the regimes and their apparatchiks that are invested in oppressing us, the change has to come from within us.

Part two: some evidence

Here is an extract from the report (2017) commissioned by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) from authors Mr. Richard Falk and Ms. Virginia Tilley. This report was withdrawn from the UN portal after protest from the USA and Israel.  However, the report can be found here.

This report concludes that Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole. Aware of the seriousness of this allegation, the authors of the report conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in
instruments of international law.

The analysis in this report rests on the same body of international human rights law and principles that reject anti-Semitism and other racially discriminatory ideologies, including: the Charter of the United Nations (1945), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965). The report relies for its definition of apartheid primarily on article II of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid…

Note here the emphasis, indeed the foundation, of the accusation against Israel. It is based on law:

‘[we]conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law.’

Yet that law loving and – supposedly – law adhering nation,the USA, wrapped its arms around Israel, and had the UN withdraw the report.  

B’tselem ‘This is Apartheid’

B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation that, prior to issuing its report ‘This is Apartheid’ in January 2021 concentrated only on violations in the West Bank, Occupied East Jerusalem and Gaza. However, it now sees that because Israel controls the entirety of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan that its focus must similarly widen to encompass the entire area. ‘This is Apartheid’ explains B’tselem’s rationale:

The Israeli regime enacts in all the territory it controls (Israeli sovereign territory, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip) an apartheid regime. One organizing principle lies at the base of a wide array of Israeli policies: advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians. B’tselem rejects the perception of Israel as a democracy (inside the Green Line) that simultaneously upholds a temporary military occupation (beyond it). B’Tselem reached the conclusion that the bar for defining the Israeli regime as an apartheid regime has been met after considering the accumulation of policies and laws that Israel devised to entrench its control over Palestinians. (Emphasis added)

Human rights Watch: ‘A threshold crossed’

In April 2021 Human Rights Watch issued its report ‘A threshold crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution’.  An extract:

On the basis of its research, Human Rights Watch concludes that the Israeli government has demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the OPT. In the OPT, including East Jerusalem, that intent has been coupled with systematic oppression of Palestinians and inhumane acts committed against them. When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid.

Israeli officials have also committed the crime against humanity of persecution. This finding is based on the discriminatory intent behind Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the grave abuses carried out in the OPT that include the widespread confiscation of privately owned land, the effective prohibition on building or living in many areas, the mass denial of residency rights, and sweeping, decades-long restrictions on the freedom of movement and basic civil rights.

Part three

So, what to do? The pivotal role of International Civil Society

So, what to do?  What to do once one is apprised of the situation in Palestine/Israel? What to do to strengthen and amplify the voices of Palestinians and dissenting Israelis who resist and seek to counter the depredations visited upon Palestinians by an overweening, expansionist, seemingly unaccountable Israeli state? Two, essentially linked and overlapping perspectives, first from the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement:

BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions)

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity…

BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Since its launch in 2005, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.

You may wish to consider following, or joining, BDS: https://bdsmovement.net/what-is-bds

The other from Jeff Harper, Israeli citizen and founder of ICAHD UK, from the transcript of webinar ‘Israeli Dissident Voices: Breaking Away from Zionism’,

…look at South Africa as the most relevant precedent as to what could happen here [in Israel] because in some ways, we share some of the same things.

…the liberation struggle in South Africa had to face a dominant white society that wasn’t going to cooperate at all with the anti-apartheid movement and of course (that’s) very like the Israeli public.

 So, what the South Africans did…is they by-passed the whites. I mean they went right to the international community, especially international civil society: churches, trade unions, political groups, university groups, and really built a strong anti-apartheid movement globally. That then affected government policies that then came back and created economic realities through their BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement that finally caused the collapse of apartheid.

You may wish to consider following, or joining ICAHD: https://icahd.org/

Non-Israelis are vital in this struggle

The role of international civil society is, therefore, crucial to creating the context and conditions for change. Absent a strong and unrelenting international voice in support of justice for Palestinians, then their struggle will likely as not be much extended and Israel, along with its powerful allies, will be content to push the issue into the shadows. Our job, non-Israelis, is to pressurise Governments and commercial entities to have no truck with an Apartheid regime. As indicated above, paradoxically, we’ll be doing Israel a favour, though the patient may take a little while to see it.

The final word:‘We don’t need your tears’

It’s fitting that this article concludes with the words of Bassem Tamimi, Palestinian grassroots activist, described by the European Union as a human rights defender, designated by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, father of Ahed Tamimi’s who aged 16 slapped an Israeli soldier outside their home, an event that, unusually, actually broke through to mainstream media.

Internationals can’t come here just for tourism. If people come to do Palestinian cooking or dabka dancing, it’s part of learning about our culture and identity but I think that much more support and solidarity is needed.

We don’t need your tears because we have a lot of tears from tear gas.

And we don’t want the people to see us victims because we are freedom fighters.

 Internationals must support us in any way that is necessary. I think that we need more than emotion, we need your actions on the ground. Come here to learn and then go back to struggle to build an international movement to help us achieve peace. Do your duty. You must take responsibility for what is happening here. You can do a lot.


Stuctural and personal violence: Israel’s relationship with Palestinians

Dear Reader, I return to a topic that is much neglected in mainstream media. It is also a matter of some sensitivity for many, and for many reasons. Whilst it is not necessarily hard to discern the motives and objectives of key state interests in maintaining and enriching, beyond all conscience, an apartheid regime, for many individuals the subject is of visceral significance, one of deep personal commitments, born of a mix of personal histories,  motives and affiliations.

It is also an issue subject to massive distortions – of truth, of ethics, of conceptual muddles – that litter the terrain with metaphorical landmines, overseen by vigilant and aggressive metaphorical drones. The adage ‘sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me’ has no purchase here.

The subject is Palestine/Israel. Over the coming weeks I hope to discuss aspects of the issue. Inevitably, for some, some words will sting.     

The democratic state of Israel

Like a toxic thread, cruelty runs through Israel’s dealings with Palestinians, perhaps most particularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem and Gaza.  Be you Palestinian child, woman or man, its coarse rasp will demean, humiliate, wound or kill you. Daily.

Guardian report, 5 November 2020:Demolitions used as a ‘key means’ to ‘coerce Palestinians to leave their homes’

Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank have razed a Palestinian village, leaving 73 people – including 41 children – homeless, in the largest forced displacement incident for years, according to the United Nations….Three-quarters of the community lost their shelters during Tuesday’s operation…making it the largest forced displacement incident in more than four years.

However, by the number of destroyed structures, 76, the raid was the largest demolition in the past decade, she [UN spokesperson] added.

On Wednesday, families from the village were seen rifling through their wrecked belongings in the wind, with some of the first rain of the year arriving the same day.

Two strategic objectives

None of this is random, an unintended consequence or miscalculation.  It is the logic of a founding ideology systematically going about its work: State Zionism. State Zionism’s strategic rationale and purpose are essentially twofold:

One, to create and maintain a specifically Jewish State – that is, a state with a built-in, perennial Jewish majority – within Israel’s boundaries. This requires the containment and removal of significant numbers of the indigenous Palestinian population. The only way to achieve this is to enact, as a matter of policy, structural and personal violence against Palestinians. Daily.

Two, significant Israeli political forces hold that Israel’s ultimate geographical boundary properly includes the West Bank and East Jerusalem; that is, the land between the Green Line1 and Jordan River. On this land Israel has built illegal Jews-only Settlements2– colonies, properly called – and aims to formally annexe all or part of the West Bank at some point3.  

The only way to achieve an expansion of Israel’s borders whilst ensuring a Jewish majority or iron grip control of the area – approximately three million Palestinians live in the West Bank – is to enact, as a matter of policy, structural and personal violence against Palestinians.  Daily.

The West Bank and Gaza comprise the Palestinian Occupied Territory.

Recent publicity suggesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu has put to one side his intention to annexe additional swathes of Palestinian territory is little more than window dressing.  Much of the West Bank, and all of East Jerusalem, are to all intent and purposes de facto annexed. Israel’s writ and reach in practice extends to the entirety of the West Bank; and it maintains a suffocating seige of Gaza. ‘Israel’s writ’ refers to the OPT being under military rule, enforced by a brutal Israel Defence Force (IDF) inflicting Israel’s will on Palestinian childen, women and men.

As the Guardian news item above demonstrates, Israel is and has been pursuing a policy of annexation by other means i.e. demolishing villages and individual homes; population dissplacement, and ensuring Palestinian villages have no access to water and other essential utilities.  Meanwhile, the Settlements – colonies – are richly endowed with new and developing infrastructure – all on stolen Palestinian land.

Defence for Children International: Palestine Ramallah, August 21, 2020

Israeli forces shot and detained a 16-year-old Palestinian boy on Wednesday night in the occupied West Bank and informed his family the next day that he was dead.

Late Wednesday night, three Palestinian teenagers approached a road used by Israeli settlers near the occupied West Bank village of Deir Abu Meshal, located northwest of Ramallah, seemingly to throw stones or Molotov cocktails, according to information collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine. Israeli forces in a nearby concealed position opened-fire with live ammunition injuring all three boys

UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

 So far in 2020, 689 structures have been demolished across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, more than in any full year since 2016; rendering 869 Palestinians homeless.

The two strategic purposes outlined above are predicated on the ‘Judaisation’ – ugly word; ugly concept – of the ‘historical, biblical’ Land of Israel.

In addition to, as a matter of policy and daily practice, displacing as many as possible of the indigenous Palestinian population, Israel ensures that those Palestinians not displaced are nevertheless hemmed in by structural and legal barriers such that anything resembling full, equal citizenship on the same terms as the Jewish population is, and always will be, impossible to achieve. 

Military Court Watch: Monitoring the treatment of children in military detention

Children in military [note ‘military’] detention as of 31 August 2020: 135

Nationality Law

The corrupted State ideology delineated above is enshrined in Israel’s 2018 Nationality Law. In fact, the racist, apartheid basis of the Jewish Israeli state had been embedded in earlier legislation and organisational arrangements such as, for example, in the Jewish National Fund (JNF)  which holds or controls vast tracts of land which can only be settled by Jews.   

Israel is as it is because it is allowed to be so

Precisely because the Nationality Law was not strictly necessary there is, arguably, a performative aspect to its purpose. It can be seen as Israel confirming to itself and other state and civil society actors that it is immune to censor or consequence, no matter which norms of international behaviour or common decency are breached.

Israel is enmeshed in a web of American, British and European state and quasi-state enterprises along with academic research, much of it military, all seemingly sanctified by a somewhat mystical International Community. In other words, the much vaunted democratic west is pock-marked and stained by its active support of what should be a pariah state.

Subsequent posts will flesh out the degree to which western complicity is not only maintaining, but bolstering, Israel’s apartheid state regime.

But….

But neither the past, nor the present, are binding upon the future. In an admittedly almost entirely bleak vista, there are Palestinians and Jewish Israelis working to break out of the binary, zero sum game such that what is good for Palestinians must be bad for Jewish Israelis; and what is bad for Palestinians must be good for Jewish Israelis.  Paradoxically perhaps, these moves are not so much a forging of new ideas, but are rather a return to, and renewal of, a more generous faith and a more inclusive, expansive  vision.

Of which, more anon.  



[1] The ‘Green Line’ currently delineating Israel from the OPT is in fact the 1949 Armistice Line

[2] Some 465,000, and rising, Israeli Jews live in Settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.

[3] Israel annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem soon after the six day war (June 1967)


Palestine/Israel: What oppression looks like

I have just returned from a trip to Palestine/Israel. My purpose: to understand more; to interview/have conversations with people; to report back to those who might already be interested and, fond hope, to encourage more widespread interest – and action. 

The bulk of my time was spent in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), taking the opportunity to have conversations in Bethlehem, Nablus, Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Hebron.

The Palestine/Israel conflict receives relatively sparse coverage in the mainstream media and where it does, coverage seems to me and many others to lean heavily towards an Israeli state narrative that seeks to frame the conflict in terms of  Israel’s security concerns, terrorist threat and the absence of a Palestinian ‘partner for peace’. One aim of this and the next post(s) is to attempt, in however minor a way, to offer a counter narrative that helps illuminate the institutionalised viscousness of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Having said that, most of the examples I offer in these posts cover the West bank and illegally annexed East Jerusalem.

Israel society is, for the present, ensnared in the current regime. This has got to change. 

The one thing the current Israeli regime fears is loss of  international support, in particular of  the USA, UK, and EU.  Israel’s occupation, and it’s colonising programme are utterly dependent on the willingness of the USA, UK, EU to  actively support it (see Trump’s USA, but in fact practically every administration), turn a blind eye, or to offer ritualised statements of regret at this or that incident or policy, with no further consequence. Yet all these countries have to hand the levers that can help contrain, and turn round the worsening situation.  

This post offers a little backround to the conflict, and a few examples of  what Israeli policy means in practice. It’s not pretty.  Subsequent post(s) will offer a commentry on the situation and try to expose some of its essential, underlying features.  

We start in Occupied East Jerusalem:

Hashimi Hotel, Old City (Palestinian) Jerusalem, 25 October 2018. in the part of Jerusalem illegally annexed by Israel in 1967 after the six day war of that year

I’m writing this from the rooftop terrace – by no means a ‘luxury’ terrace, but fine – of the hotel with a view of the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Islam after Mecca and Medina.  The hotel has quite a number of Muslim pilgrims based here.

Jerusalem is awash with a variety of pilgrimage groups from virtually everywhere in the world.  You can’t walk in the Old City without encountering a snake of seemingly welded-together pilgrims on their way to Al Aqsa or, this for Christians, walking the Via Dolarosa  (the Way of Tears) and pausing at each of the Stations of the Cross.  There is also the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over what is believed to be the site both of Jesus’s crucifixion and his burial tomb, a site for often emotional veneration.

Jews (my lot, in general terms) are at it too, for they head towards the Wailing Wall which is ‘a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the “Western Wall’.  Together, the entire area incorporating the Western Wall and the Al Aqsa Mosque is known as Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif  by Muslims.  This is an area of sharp contention, religious passion and naked political power games, further destabilised by virtue of Israel’s annexation of the city and its own less than commendable agenda. Which I shall no doubt come to.

Welcome?

Not infrequently, one can get a sense of a place, a sense of ‘what’s going on’ by way of a series of vignettes, actual incidents that illustrate, in shorthand form, essential features of a wider canvass. I was at the threshold of the country, queuing at passport control to enter Israel.  The manner of greeting can say a lot about the nature of a home.

My queue contained a group – a family group: mum, daughter, three lads, probably in their twenties – all obviously Muslim. The lads had what I suppose we think of as typical beards, one or two wore skull caps, and one had that long garment, the name of which escapes me.  I was next to them and so heard them talking – talking in northern British accents and clutching their British Passports ready for examination. We started chatting.

They were already prepared for some at least not to be allowed through passport control without being interviewed, and perhaps denied entry.  Sure enough, the three lads were turned back and walked past me smiling as they went to the interview area. Mum and daughter got through. Continue reading

So what’s new? Israel’s Nationality Law

Israel’s parliament (Knesset) has this July passed its Nationality Law by sixty two votes to fifty five. In brief, it enshrines, and in effect crows about, Israel’s status as an apartheid state.

The law confirms that ‘Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it’. Note ‘exclusive’.  In addition, the Arabic language is downgraded from its co-equal status as an official language with Hebrew to a lesser ‘special status’.  By way of reminder, Israel’s Palestinian Arabs number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the nine million population.

The law also affirms that ‘The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.’  Note ‘Jewish’. Note, too, ‘settlement’, which in fact refers to the construction of Jewish-only colonies built on historic Palestinian land cleared by Israel in an unrelenting programme of house demolitions, land seizures, and crop destruction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and in (illegally annexed) East Jerusalem. Continue reading